Monday, 9 June 2014

Bird Watching Patience

Patience value was once again re-enforced with me yesterday. Fay and I were driving slowly along a small pond which bordered the road when Fay spotted a muskrat floating very close by. I stopped and stepped out to get a photo but the camera shy critter crawled up into a hidey hole on a small cattailed covered islet. We could just see him grooming himself while monitoring the strange photographer perched a few feet away. He finally decided that he could not fix himself up well enough on such short notice for this glamour shoot, so he let himself out the back door and disappeared. I sat there quietly in case he changed his mind. 
Hidden Muskrat
I was enjoying the other activity around the pond. Frogs croaked steadily, red-winged blackbirds were busy protecting their territory and numerous species of ducks floated around feeding, grooming or just resting. There was a slight rustle of reeds in front of me when a tiny bird stuck its head out of the cattails. I couldn't believe my eyes. 
Male Sora Emerging
Here stood a Sora, a very stealthy and secretive bird of the swamps. This male Sora stepped into the open, quickly stepping from reed to reed and picking at, invisible to me, insects in the duck weed covered water. This bird reminded me of the African Jiracanna, or Jesus Bird as it is called there because it seems to be able to walk on water.
Ideal Sora Habitat
I would often, in the past, wander off once the muskrat hid itself so well in the reeds. I now recognise what an integral part of life this is for it. There are many predators who enjoy dining on fresh muskrats from hawks, owls, northern pike, foxes, coyotes and of course man for silky muskrat fur. They have to have safe havens where they can sleep, dine and groom. I have often disregarded the value of the cattails surrounding most wetlands in this area of the world. It looks like a very tangled wasteland between shore and water but cattails provide very valuable habitat for many critters. Insects, amphibians, water bugs and fish all live here amongst the underwater tangles feeding and growing and hiding. In the messy mass that we see above the water surface more insects live, birds nest and raise young and of course muskrats live, feed and raise babies. We have all seen red-winged and yellow-headed blackbirds dive into hidden nests and protect valuable home territory. If you looked closer you may have spotted swamp sparrows, marsh wrens or even the shy Bittern. Above the reeds we often see terns, gulls and small hawks gliding and swooping for insects or unwary birds.
The reeds themselves help keep the wetlands healthy by filtering run off water and absorbing carbon from the air.
Wildlife photography has a very large luck component but also a very large part of patience. Luck and patience often combine to "being in the right place at the right time." Timing is said to be everything, but you must also be ready for when stuff happens. You will never get a sunrise shot if you are not up and ready before it happens. How many times have we all seen some WOW MOMENTS and had no camera or it was tucked safely an securely in the protective camera bag in the back seat. I have a lot of great photos tucked safely away between my ears with no way of showing them off. Good camera gear helps but is not essential. Any half decent SLR camera with moderate length lens will take these photos if you are ready. Above all, even if you don't get great photos, enjoy the wow moments that you will see if you take your time and sit still for a few minutes. Re-wild yourself with a quiet communion with Mother earth. I can tell you that I was very excited to get these shots and could hardly wait to get home to download and take a look.

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